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Energy companies should have to disclose their environmental impact

By Omar Allam
On October 6, 2013

Billy Ely likes to show off what his water can do to the media. He turns on the tap water and brings a cigarette lighter to the flowing water as it catches on fire. Bright orange flames flicker as the tap water continues to flow. This phenomenon of flammable water is no feat. As a matter of fact, flammable water in Dimock, Pennsylvania is common. This flammable water occurrence is no magic trick, or some sort of scientific paradox. The water is actually polluted with methane, a highly combustible hydrocarbon.
According to CNN, Dimock, Pennslyvnia sits on one of the largest natural gas deposits in the United States of America, the Marcellus Shale. As a result, this natural gas reserve attracts gas companies wanting to extract this valuable resource.
The extraction of natural gas is done through a very controversial process, called hydraulic fracturing, or commonly known as fracking.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that fracking is the process in which wells are drilled in these gas rich bedrock deposits, often almost 10,000 ft deep.
Afterwards millions of gallons of toxic hydraulic fracturing fluid are then injected at high pressures down into the wells, which induce fracturing of the bedrock that contains these natural gases.
Once the bedrock is fractured the natural pressure of theses gases causes the poisonous fluids to resurface, as the gases flow upwards through the wells.
In the past couple of years, there has been a lot scrutiny facing the process of fracking, due to environmental and health concerns.
When these gas rich bedrocks are fractured, natural gas tends to flow upwards through the wells, however, some gasses reach the surface through different mechanisms such as diffusion, much of which the gas companies have no control over.
As a result, some aquifers become tainted as these chemicals diffuse into the earth; such is the case with Billy Ely and his water.
In addition, the hydraulic fracturing fluid that resurfaces after fracking is extremely toxic, sometimes even containing radioactive material, and is usually stored in a pit near the drilling site and is improperly dealt with.
Although there have been numerous studies published that illustrate the health and environmental hazards of fracking natural gas, protection agencies can do very little to protect Americans from the hazards facing them.
Why? Because of Halliburton's loophole.
When President George W. Bush passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a provision that gave environmental protection agencies authority in attempt to ensure clean water and air, a loophole was created that exempted natural gas companies from abiding to these policies.
Dick Cheney, former vice president of president Bush, helped create Halliburton's Loophole. The loophole is named after the multinational corporation, Halliburton Company, that profits off energy resources such as natural gas and oil. Ironically, Cheney is also a former CEO of the multibillion-dollar company.
As a result, natural gas companies have the liberty to not reveal any of the deadly chemicals that are being released into the environment, and do not have to abide to many of the regulations passed by the EPA.
Halliburton and many other companies illustrate natural gas as a "clean" energy source, however recently a Cornell research professor recently published an article illustrating that the production of natural gas is actually "dirtier" than coal.
This is one of many cases in which the fate of our environment is not scientifically established or based on moral principles, but by wealth and power, as in the case of Halliburton's Loophole. As a nation, as inhabitants, we ought to change this for the sake of the environment. We need to push for proper and safer methods for utilizing our resources for energy.  


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